BEREA — Odell Beckham Jr. was admittedly shocked and shaken by the trade that has uprooted his life. But once it sunk in, he embraced it.
In a bear hug.
As he sat in front of a packed media room Monday at Browns headquarters, Beckham talked about the joy of being reunited with good friend and fellow receiver Jarvis Landry, his excitement level in joining quarterback Baker Mayfield and a team on the rise and God’s plan to place him in Cleveland.
“I’m very excited about this and I think that it’s going to be one of the best things that ever happened to me in my life,” Beckham said.
Then he predicted huge things for the Browns.
“I think this moment is going to be more iconic than we all realize right now,” Beckham said. “That’s what we want the goal to be. We’ll look back in 10 years and be like, ‘Man, I remember April 1, 2019, the start of something great.’
“And I’m just happy to be a part of that.”
Landry, Mayfield and defensive end Myles Garrett joined Beckham on the dais, but the day belonged to the superstar receiver who spent the first five years of his career with the New York Giants. The Browns acquired him March 13 in a trade that cemented them as one of the NFL’s contenders and most interesting teams.
Beckham called LeBron James on advice for living in Northeast Ohio, joking that he asked to borrow his mansion in Bath. Beckham wants to follow in James’ footsteps in a more meaningful way.
“He just said you’re going to love it,” Beckham said. “That’s like my idol, that’s the person I look up to the most. That’s my guy.
“To see what he did to bring a championship here, I just want to be able to do that same thing.”
He was on the way to dinner when he got the call from Giants general manager Dave Gettleman that he’d been traded. He said the “sudden change” put him through “a lot of emotions” and he had to “come to grips with everything,” particularly leaving his teammates.
“It’s hard to explain. I can’t even put it into words,” Beckham said. “Your whole life’s changing.”
There’s no denying Cleveland is different from New York, especially for someone as popular as Beckham (12.9 million Instagram followers) and with as many endorsement deals and varied interests, including fashion. He said he can make a home anywhere.
“I know where I’m at in life. I don’t need to be in New York, I don’t need to be in L.A., I can be in Sheboygan, Wis., it doesn’t matter where I’m at,” he said. “I’ve created this, what I would call a legacy, so it never really crossed my mind, ‘Oh, we’re going to Cleveland,’ or worrying about marketing or worrying about any of that.
“I care about football. I care about winning. I didn’t step into this game to be famous, that’s just what fell into my lap. We talked about legendary, we talked about a legacy, we talked about (Hall of Fame) gold jackets, that’s our conversations. It never was about the money, it never was about any of that, it’s about being a legend.”
Landry is the other half of the “we.” They met at a football camp in high school, attended LSU and dreamed of playing together again in the NFL. Landry arrived from Miami in a trade last offseason and had a simple message for Beckham about coming to Cleveland.
“Honestly just be himself and people would love him for that,” Landry said.
“I heard this is a football town. I’m looking forward to finding out,” Beckham said.
New coach Freddie Kitchens met Beckham for the first time Monday as the offseason program started. Kitchens had said the first thing he’d tell Beckham is that he loves him, so he followed through and said Beckham reciprocated.
“It’s like a love story,” Kitchens said.
Beckham caught 390 passes for 5,476 and 44 touchdowns in 59 games with the Giants and went to three Pro Bowls. He’s still dealing with the fallout of the trade and trying to plan his schedule, so he isn’t sure how much of the voluntary offseason program he’ll attend but thought it was important to be there Day 1.
“We want to set the tone,” he said. “I usually train in LA, but I definitely want to be able to be here and create that bond, that relationship with the new teammates, coaches, everybody, just so you can kind of see who I am exactly.
“I just thought it was important to be here today.”
Mayfield said Beckham’s attendance shows he’s a team guy. Beckham, whose behavior wasn’t appreciated by some in the Giants organization, said the perception he’s a me-first guy is misguided.
“It’s just wrong,” he said. “I don’t know how else to explain it.”
Mayfield developed a relationship with Beckham through Giants receiver and former Oklahoma teammate Sterling Shepard, and they worked out together last offseason. Mayfield started screaming when he found out about the trade.
“Just yelling like you would have thought I was on the field on gameday, just excited,” Mayfield said. “It’s the potential, it’s knowing exactly who he is and knowing what type of guy he is.”
Kitchens said Beckham brings “enthusiasm and passion,” adding he “loves to play the game.”
“I like the guy,” Kitchens said, drawing out the final word in his Alabama twang. “Really that’s all I have to go off of right now, just the guy. I like the guy.”
Kitchens told Beckham about Browns fans.
“I think that he will match their passion,” Kitchens said. “He is going to love it. And he looks good in orange and brown.”
Beckham sat behind the microphone in a brown shirt, brown sports coat and orange Browns hat with the elf on it. He looked comfortable.
“There’s no better place for me to be but here,” he said. “I feel like there’s no way God would have landed me here and not be here for a reason.”